This Covid-19 Long-Hauler Recovery post is a work in progress. I will continue to update with new information as it emerges.
Turns Out, It Wasn’t Anxiety
Like so many other stories, it started with a tooth… After falling ill in the beginning of March with extreme headaches and toothaches without any perceptible dental cause, I had no idea what a frustrating and life-threatening rollercoaster ride I was in for.
On March 13th, I was diagnosed with “acute viral sinusitis” and given Amoxicillin to relieve whatever was going on in my sinuses. By the morning of March 16th, the pain had subsided and I thought I was in the clear, but as I was preparing to go to sleep that night I experienced sudden shortness of breath. It didn’t make any sense to me as my airways felt clear. I grew up with Asthma so I knew this was something entirely different. When I laid down, my pulse shot up rapidly and it felt like my head was going to explode from pressure building. I stayed up the entire night just trying to breathe and by morning I started experiencing rolling heart palpitations. This felt like nothing I’ve ever had in my life. Not H1N1 that I caught in Japan in 2009, asthma attacks, or any of my many bouts with bronchitis every came close to this. This felt completely alien to me.
I talked to a friend who convinced me that I was having a serious cardiac event, so I drove to the Emergency Department at my local hospital. After waiting several hours they brought me in and ran X-rays of my chest, gave me an EKG, took blood, and then sent me home. Since I didn’t display the telltale signs of known Covid-19 at the time, they assumed it was just anxiety, panic attacks, and sinus arrhythmia. Even though I had no history of anxiety or panic disorder, I don’t blame them since it would be many weeks later until Covid-19 was recognized as an endothelial disease that can cause autonomic dysfunction.
I spent the next two nights sitting up and just focusing on breathing. My lungs didn’t seem to want to open after I exhaled. When I began to nod off, I would stop inhaling. I watched dozens of YouTube videos on breathing techniques and no matter what I did, I could not control the rhythm of my breathing. When I tried to lay down flat, my heart would feel like it was about to explode out of my chest, but would eventually settle down when I sat back up. I did not understand what could be causing this. I had never heard of dysautonomia or POTS before. While I had known several people with extreme anxiety and panic disorder and I never witnessed them going through a panic attack that lasted days without letting up. Since I read that you can’t die from a panic attack, I allowed myself to pass out while sitting upright and thought to myself, “If I die, then I die.” It was the first sleep I got in three days, but it didn’t last long. At one point in the night, my body slumped out of the sitting up position and I woke up in fight or flight. I spent the next several months trying to sleep while sitting upright with limited success.
Then I found Dr. Noah Greenspan on a Facebook Long-Haulers group and everything changed. I told him my story and he said it was exactly the type of Covid-19 cases they were seeing in NYC since the beginning of the outbreak.
What Is Causing Long Covid?
If you are having crazy symptoms that involve blood pressure and heart rate changes, please watch this webinar with Dr. Svetlana Blitshteyn.
More to come…